The resume: Leverage your strengths
Anyone who has played sports at any level knows that the key to success is to work on your weaknesses in practice and to play to your strengths and minimise your flaws in competition.
The last Recruiting and Retention column was practice — detailing the “don'ts” of resume writing. Now that it's game time, it's time to look at how to emphasise your strengths.
If a game's purpose is to score more points than your opponent, a resume's purpose is to land an interview with a prospective employer. Hiring managers read your resume to ensure that you meet all the requirements of a job.
Even if you do have all of the skills and experience the job advertisement specified, there may be ten other candidates who also meet the requirements. Few employers will interview all ten. What is it in your resume that makes you stand out? What are your strengths and achievements that will get you on the shortlist?
Maybe you are the leading expert in your field or you graduated summa cum laude from Harvard when you were 18. Then you will certainly get an interview. The rest of us need to think a little harder.
Standing out requires that you modify your resume for a particular job. Your standard resume will not cut it, because it is generic by nature — a recitation of all your jobs outlining all of your duties and accomplishments in different roles.
So the first requirement is to be flexible enough to adapt your resume for the role for which you are applying.
You also need to have some knowledge of your prospective employer.
There are rules that apply for every resume. Here are three of the most important:
• Keep your resume to one or two pages.
• Present your work and education experience in reverse chronological order — put your most recent experience first.
• Do not include employment more than 15 years old, or touch on it very briefly — title, employer and years worked.
Here is the most important:
• Focus on your achievements, not just your tasks.
No one wants to read a laundry list of how you collected the mail, maintained the office supplies, made sales calls or did other daily, routine tasks.
But they do want to hear that you developed a new mail distribution system that reduced delivery time by one hour a day, or found a new office supply company which reduced annual costs by 30 per cent, or that you increased sales by ten per cent each year for five consecutive years.
These are the kinds of accomplishments that make your resume stand out and will get you an interview.
If the job has a strong emphasis on sales and you increased sales at a previous employer, then you need to emphasis this ability and reduce your emphasis on, say operations or administrative experience.
If you do not have the professional accomplishments that the employer is seeking, you may have comparable accomplishments from other fields or even in your personal life that fit the bill.
One way of identifying achievements is to determine what problems you encountered and solved and what the results were. Most people are reluctant to appear boastful or to blow their own horns, but you have to recognise that in job applications, no one else is going to do it for you.
Sometimes it is hard to remember, or to recognise your own accomplishments. This is where it's worth talking to friends and colleagues about some of things you may have done, or reviewing past performance reviews or appraisals.
Finally, If you don't meet all of the requirements for the job, you may have so much experience or talent in the remaining skills required that it offsets your weaknesses, or you may have other skills and abilities that make you worth interviewing — but if you don't emphasise these strengths and accomplishments, you won't get the chance to make your case in the interview.
Bill Zuill is a director of Bermuda Executive Services Ltd. For recruiting and employment questions, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org Recruiting and Retention articles and other blog entries can be seen at www.bermudaemployment.com